Today’s Reading: Psalms 92-100
Today’s Reflection: Psalms 96:1
Oh sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth!
The word “psalm” means “sung with instrumental accompaniment”. So the book of Psalms is a songbook, filled with the lyrics of psalms included in Israel’s worship of God. Some Psalms were written as songs by the musical worship leaders—Levites like Asaph (50 and 73–83) and Jeduthun (39, 62, and 77). Others were written by kings like David (2, 16, 32, 69, 95, and 110) and Solomon (72). Still others began as prayers, like that of Moses (90). But what they all have in common is they chronicled Israel’s relationship with God, they provided spiritual direction and instruction (as all scripture does—2 Timothy 3:16) and they were designed to lead God’s people into worship.
Psalm 96 begins by saying sing to God a new song. In its simplicity and poetic language I think we actually miss that this is an instruction. Everyone who hears or reads this Psalm, from generation to generation, is receiving instruction—or at least permission—to sing a new song glorifying God and to share that song throughout the earth, even to the heathen (vs. 3). The rest of the Psalm instructs the singer or hearer on what this new song should say: that God is the source of salvation (vs. 2), that God is great and greatly to be praised (vs. 4), to bring God an offering (vs. 8), to worship God and fear Him (vs. 9), and that God is a righteous and honest judge (vs. 13) among other things.
But with all of the Psalms, hymns, and other religious music in existence, why sing a new song? These Psalms chronicled Israel’s experience at one point in time, as did the hymns for Christians at one point in time. But each generation needs to have their own experience with God. It only stands to reason that each generation would write and sing their own songs to make their testimonies known to all.
This also means any controversy over contemporary Christian or Gospel music completely misses the point. While many Psalms, hymns and other songs will continue to have resonance with God’s people throughout the ages, just as each generation must have an experience of God to call their own, they must have songs of their own as well. And as long as these songs follow the guidance given throughout Psalms and other Bible passages governing how we ought to praise God, it doesn’t matter if these songs are heavy metal or hip hop, or if they use electric guitars or steel pan drums. The songs of each generation will be of that generation’s time in terms of musical genre, style and instrumentation (note that while psalm means to be sung with instruments, it doesn’t specify which ones).
We overcome by the blood of the lamb and by the word of our testimony (Revelation 12:11), whether that word is sung, spoken or rapped. It’s time to sing a new song!